Healing Body and Mind using Acupuncture. It takes a leap of faith for many people to wrap their heads around therapies and approaches that deviate from “Western” views of science and health. There is often a prevailing belief that the only healing benefits inherent in such non-pharmaceutical, non-technologically-driven therapies lie in their placebo effects. Simply express an interest in complementing one’s “conventional” treatments for _____ (insert any diagnosis here) with such modalities as homeopathy, reiki and Cranial Sacral therapy, and the scientific community will no doubt raise a collective eyebrow. The argument against such complementary or, dare I say, alternative medicine often begins and ends with the 21st Century version of snake oil: “It’s unsubstantiated pseudoscience.”
Of all the healing modalities in the natural health practitioner’s toolbox, the one that has taken the brunt of this misguided opinion is acupuncture. Actually, that’s only partly true. The past couple of decades have produced sufficiently persuasive clinical data to convince much of the Western scientific community that inserting tiny needles into strategic locations on the body may alleviate local pain and hasten the healing process. Knee pain? Stick some needles in and around your knee. Low back pain? Needles in the low back. And so on. While this is a valuable treatment option for many, and certainly a step in the right direction for advocates of natural medicine, it largely ignores the true power (and beauty) of the modality.
Acupuncture, in its traditional form, is designed to treat the whole body, restoring balance and coordinating function for the complex machinery that drives us all. Entwined with the muscles, joints and the rest of our external selves are our thoughts, fears and emotions. Fortunately, conventional science is also beginning to accept this expanded role, despite the fact that the insertion of a needle into a patient’s wrist to alleviate panic attacks really has no place in modern-day concepts of anatomy and physiology. Ironically, as the long-standing argument against holistic medicine went, the proof is in the science. A systematic review of ten randomized controlled trials examining acupuncture treatments for anxiety illustrated beneficial effects when comparing legitimate acupuncture treatments to contrived “sham” points 1.
Of course, there is still a long way to go before research-proven, traditional therapies are fully embraced and integrated into the realm of conventional medicine. But little-by-little, study by study, perceptions are starting to shift. And that can only benefit the patients who need them.
1 Pilkington K, Kirkwood G, Rampes H, Cummings M, Richardson J. Acupuncture for anxiety and anxiety disorders–a systematic literature review. Acupunct Med. 2007;25(1-2):1-10.
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By. Dr. Erik Boudreau, ND